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  Ex-Ukiah Priest Faces New Accuser

By Mike Geniella
Press Democrat
January 27, 1999

A Catholic priest who faces a new accusation of sexual misconduct was relieved Tuesday of his duties at a Napa parish pending the outcome of a church investigation into the complaint, according to the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

The priest on Tuesday denied the allegations.

Catholic church attorney Paul Gaspari of San Francisco confirmed Tuesday that the Rev. Jorge Hume had been placed on leave. Rev. Tim O'Sullivan, pastor of Napa's St. John's Church, said Tuesday the action against Hume was taken as the result of allegations by a 19-year-old Napa man, who told diocesan representatives last week that Hume had sexually groped him soon after the priest came to the Napa church in February 1998.

Current church policy, adopted as the result of a sexual molestation scandal that rocked the diocese beginning in the early 1990s, requires all complaints of sexual misconduct to be investigated, and for priests involved to be immediately placed on administrative leave.

Napa police said Tuesday they had received no complaint against Hume.

In June 1996, Bishop Patrick Ziemann removed Hume from St. Mary's Church in Ukiah after the priest admitted stealing church money. Ziemann acknowledged last week that a month before the Ukiah church theft was uncovered, he learned during a meeting with a delegation of concerned Latino leaders of allegations of sexual misconduct involving Hume and four young Ukiah men, all over age 18.

Santa Rosa attorney Irma Perez Cordova, Hume's lawyer, said Tuesday the 41-year-old priest denies the Napa and Ukiah sexual allegations.

"When the facts come out, they will show Jorge is a victim," said Cordova.

Cordova said that while Hume denies the sexual allegations, he freely admits the Ukiah church theft.

"He took the money. Everybody knows that. He acknowledges it was wrong," said Cordova.

Cordova said Hume contends he took the money because he felt it was being "misused" by the Ukiah church. According to Cordova, Hume said the money was given to two charities.

"He gave the bishop two letters verifying that he sent money to missionaries in his native Costa Rica, and to the Sisters of Sacred Heart order in Mexico City," said Cordova.

On Tuesday, Ziemann was at a church retreat in Bodega Bay and could not be reached for comment about Hume's removal from the Napa church. Monsignor Thomas Keyes, the diocese's vicar general, who placed Hume on leave after receiving the Napa man's complaint, also could not be reached for comment.

Gaspari, the diocese's lawyer, said, "We're looking at the entirety of the situation." He declined further comment.

The church's refusal to press criminal charges against Hume for the Ukiah theft and Ziemann's reassignment of the priest to Napa after an 18-month leave came under fire last week from a Catholic nun, local Latino leaders and a former Ukiah police chief.

Sister Jane Kelly, a 68-year-old nun, released letters of protest written to Ziemann and other church officials. She said Hume's reassignment to another parish was "only perpetuating the real possibility of repeating his scandalous actions." Her letters triggered complaints by members of St. Mary's Latino community that reports of sexual misconduct by Hume brought to Ziemann in 1996 before the theft had gone ignored.

Cordova said Tuesday that Hume was "virtually homeless" after he was placed on leave following his removal from Ukiah in June 1996, and before he was reassigned by Ziemann to the Napa church in February 1998. She said at times Hume was forced to "sleep in his car."

"He has been punished, really punished, more than you can ever imagine," said Cordova.

A police report made at the time of the theft said Hume admitted taking $1,200. Church officials estimate that at least $10,000 was taken from collection plates over a several-month period.

The Diocese of Santa Rosa, with 140,000 Catholics stretching from Sonoma County to the Oregon border, has in recent years paid more than $2 million to settle claims against North Coast priests who sexually abused teen-age boys. The victims condemned the church hierarchy for ignoring allegations of sexual abuse and transferring the priests to another parish, where they could again abuse young men.

 
 

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